Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Suburban Moose

Since I am a starving artist, I do not live in the nicest nieghborhood in town. It's also far from the worst place around, but there is a run down trailer park right behind my apartment. The people living there seem like decent people to me, family friendly, rather than party animals.
The other evening I noticed a moose in the trailer park. Tonight as I was returning home from dinner in a nearby Viet Namese restaurant I took a shortcut through the trailer park. I noticed a moose again. There was a young girl playing nearby so I alerted her about the moose. She said " I know that's the mother, her baby is right over there. They live here".
Soon the baby joined the mother and I went to retrieve my camera. These moose were no more than 75 meters from my apartment.
The nearly independent baby.
There were kids and dogs all around. the moose grazed contentedly without concern. Imagine moose in a neighborhood in most big cities. There would be a huge commotion. Here nobody shows much interest. It's all old hat.
These moose actually walked closer to where I was standing. They came to within about 15 ft of me and casually continued to graze.
I imagine that they will move on to greener pastures once they have exhausted the food supply in the trailer park.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Jimmy's Art

My younger brother Jim passed away in January. He had two main careers in his life. He was a sculptor, concentrating on wood carvings of birds. His other career was making custom knives. My oldest brother Bob was also a reknown knife maker, and taught Jimmy the craft.
These career choices dont lend themselves to a steady income, so, like me, my brothers had to get conventional jobs from time to time.
Wood carvings like this Kestrel took my brother months to carve. The photo does'nt show the minute details of the bird. They were very difficult to sell because of their high prices.
The feet are made out of copper. I believe the wood is Basswood.
One of my favorite carvings that he did is this Peregrine.
Jimmy also made jewelry and did impressionist painting. I think he was a better impressionist than anything else, but he did'nt really enjoy it, so he gave it up.
This is one of my brother's last knives. He was making it for me. The plan was that he would scrimshaw a design on the ivory handle but he never got around to doing it. I think I like it better without the scrimshaw.
My other younger brother Rick is a portrait photographer. His website is, http://www.lofgreenphotography.com/.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Good Painting?

The Shapes of Winter, 12x24"
Inspiration comes when it comes, not when I want it to come. Too bad it does'nt come very often. When a painting is working, everything goes smoothly without a hitch. When I'm painting a stinker, it starts out wrong and fights me every step of the way. My instinct is to put in more effort, and force the painting to look right. That seldom works out.
I usually cant tell what looks good and what does'nt. I do know that this one came off without any problems, so it must be good. The actual colors are warmer than the photo indicates. Let's hope that this painting is the beginning of a long streak of inspired paintings.
If you read this Steve, this painting was inspired by the photo of a Bison on your Antelope Island post. I know there is no resemblance, but that's how inspiration comes about.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Program vs Manual, The Big Showdown

For many years, way back in the dawn of time, I used a Pentax K-1000. It was a fully manual 35mm camera that was touted as the most basic 35mm camera available, and the only one that could be operated without a battery. It was truly simple to operate, but being completely manual, I missed many great wildlife photos because I was fumbling with shutter speed and aperture size (F-stop). I used that camera until it fell apart.
Then a wonder camera came onto the market, the Canon AE-1 program. That meant that one could let the camera decide shutter speed and aperture size. When I got mine I thought it was the final word in camera technology. Nothing could be superior to that. I used that camera for even longer than the Pentax, and I still have it. It still works although I never use it.
Anyway that camera set my habit of using program mode for every circumstance. In the last blog post I talked about trying to photograph strong evening light striking trees in a dark forest. I had to set the camera on manual exposure in order to replicate the mood of the evening.
This time I went to Russian Jack Park to photograph some Fall scenery. I photographed scenes first in program mode, then I played with manual exposure to see which looked better. The following photos are the results.
In this scene I liked the way that bright sun light illuminated the yellow Devil's Club in the middle of the photo. As you can see with this program mode photo, the camera failed to capture the light properly.
By intentionally under-exposing the image, I was able to get the photo to look more like the real scene.
Another over-exposed program photo that makes the scene look flat and uninteresting.
This manual scene is definitely under-exposed but it really captures the mysterious mood of the dark forest.
Program mode got this one right.
Manual exposure works too.
Rotting leaves on the forest floor in program mode.
This manual shot is maybe a tad too dark.
The forest floor from a more interesting angle in program.
Manual takes the cake again. Real photographers record shutter speeds and f-stop, but that seems way too obsessive to me.
By the time I made it down to Chester Creek, I gave up on program, and just left the camera on manual for scenery shots.
I like this photo of Bunchberry.
It is clear that my Fujifilm HS-10 tends to over-expose in program mode. So does my Lumix FZ-50. My old Canon AE-1 program  did the same, but I compensated for that by pushing the ISO.
The lession I learned is that I need to use manual exposure for scenery shots, but I will continue to rely on program mode for wildlife. Of course these new cameras offer many other options which I will probably continue to ignore.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Foggy Night and Evening Light

For the last several days we have had a lot of fog night and day, but with sunny afternoons. I went out on my balcony and shot this photo of the apartment complex I live in.
A close up of the manager's office obscured by the glare of light.
Looking out over the visitor's parking lot.
This evening, (Saturday), I rode my bicycle up to Kentucky Fried Chicken for a nutritious, (sarcasm), dinner. On the way back I was admiring the way that the evening light illuminated the trunks of Birch trees in the background while the foreground remained in shadow.
I hurried home to get my camera and return before the light was gone. Thank goodness for very long sunsets this far north. It was a challenge trying to get the exposure right. Usually I just set the camera on program and dont worry about it.
That did'nt work in this situation so I had to do what I have'nt done in years, try manual exposure.
I purposely underexposed the images because that is the way it looked in the low light conditions.
The plants in the foreground are Fireweed going to seed. Someday it will make a good subject for a painting. I could put a fox or something in the composition.
Just as I was starting this blog post I looked out the back window and saw this moonrise over the mountains. I think That I need to quit being such a lazy photographer, and start playing with manual exposure more often.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Russian Church and random stuff

This is the view of a Russian Orthodox church from the edge of the property where I live.
The mountains in the background will be covered in snow any day now. They are blanketed in snow most of the year.There are many homes and condos between my apt. and the church, so I have tried to find angles to shoot photos where I could obscure most of the clutter with vegetation.
Russian Orthodox churches are a legacy of the time when Alaska belonged to Russia. I know little about the religeon, but they have the coolest churches around. I believe that most of their parishoners are Alaska natives.
The churches are famous for their onion domes and distinctive crosses.
Between my place and the church there is a weedy field. I suspect that most of the weeds are introduced species. Volunteers go around to sensitive areas around town removing invasive plants. This field is no doubt a lost cause. I dont believe that I have ever seen this kind of grass before.
A late blooming fireweed and some daisy-like composites.
Who knows what these flowers are ?
Another mystery flower.
A Steller's Jay forages on the ground.
My latest painting is a humble portrait of a Kestrel, 10x8".

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Big Critters of Denali

Somewhere I have much better Caribou photos than this, but it will do for now. Much of Denali Nat. Park reminded me of the high deserts in Northern Arizona.
A bull Moose rests in the thick tundra. Walking through this stuff requires major effort. After stepping over thick vegetation, your feet sink into foot deep icewater. It all looks dry, but is quite wet.
We were half a mile from the van, trudging through tundra when this rutting bull approached us grunting loudly. I started to move away as fast as I could step but Shane told me to hold my ground.
The bull got way too close for comfort but veered off before killing us.
The thing that every visitor to Denali wants to see is a Grizzly Bear. We saw many. Park rules forbid people from approaching bears and other wildlife so we would find a vantage point and watch for them. After determining which direction they were travelling we would position ourselves about a half mile ahead of them and wait for them to come to us.
This mother Grizzly showed a small amount of concern for the people watching from the road, but was much more vigilant watching out for other bears.
It was quite a thrill to be approached by a bear when we were away from the vehicle.
This bear veered away after it walked to within fifteen feet of me. Another bear came so close that I could not focus my 400mm lens on it. The lens focuses at 12ft. None of the bears displayed any aggression.
I shot many photos of Grizzly Bears and have used them in many paintings. Following Ancient Footsteps, 18x24".
I forget the title or size of this painting.
The Bear Went Over the Mountain, 20x16".
Cotton Grass Grizzly, 11x14". Denali has inspired many more paintings of mine, and will no doubt be the subject of many more. I will return.